This study provides insights into the challenges experienced by managers and workers in Victorian disability residential settings in the second wave of Victoria’s COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the pandemic the Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health (CRE-DH) has conducted research to inform government, services and community responses. This research has included three national surveys of Disability Support Workers (DSWs). The first survey was in May/June 2020 and the second between September/October 2020. These surveys revealed issues around infection control training, access to PPE, worker mobility, and financial and psychological stressors for DSWs. The third survey concentrated on vaccination and was conducted between March and April 2021. The third survey demonstrated relatively high levels of vaccine hesitancy relating to concerns regarding vaccine safety as well as lack of confidence in the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Following outbreaks of COVID-19 in disability residential settings in Victoria, we conducted interviews with support workers and team leaders working in disability residential settings as well as senior managers of those services. The aim of these interviews was to better understand their experiences during this time period in terms of preparedness for outbreaks, information and communications, experiences working in COVID-19 positive settings or concerns about working in those settings, as well as the consequences of the second wave on the wellbeing of DSWs and people with disability in those settings.
This report summarises the findings followed by a discussion on how the experiences can inform future planning of disability sector support needs during a pandemic and other emergency responses. The report concentrates on the findings that are particularly relevant to policy and future preparedness for infectious disease outbreaks. It concludes with recommendations for consideration by state and federal governments, relevant government agencies including the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NQSC).